Six reasons why you should move more
Posted on 20 June 2016
Get up and get moving! A Mediclinic biokineticist talks us through the top reasons why moving and walking are good for your body – and your overall wellbeing.
Walk into some of South Africa’s trendier offices these days and you’ll probably spot a few standing desks. While these pieces of office furniture may be better for your health than slouching in a chair all day long, experts agree that what you really need to do is step away from your desk and move around more. Here’s why:
1. Walking lowers your diabetes risk
‘We’re designed to move,’ says Michelle Wilson, a biokineticist at Mediclinic Hermanus. ‘Our bodies function more optimally when we’re moving, and there’s a multitude of health benefits to being physically active’. One such benefit – regular brisk walks have been shown to reduce your risk of type 2 (adult) diabetes by almost 60%. An added bonus is that walking also cuts your risk of diseases such as colon and breast cancer.
2. Walking reduces body fat
Walking is a great exercise that will help you burn off kilojoules. By some measures you could burn about 315kJ simply by walking at a pace of just over 3km/h for just 30 minutes. Let’s put it this way: if you can do 6,5km in under an hour, you’ll drop more than 600kJ – and get your weekend morning off to a fresh start!
3. Walking strengthens your heart
Regular walking – whether it’s on the treadmill at the gym or around your neighbourhood at home – is known to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. It’s the perfect cardio exercise, as it lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol. ‘Your heart is a muscle, and as with any muscle in the body you need to challenge it to strengthen it,’ Michelle explains. ‘Walking challenges your heart by increasing the oxygen demand on your muscles. Your heart has to work harder to supply your muscles with oxygen, and as a result your heart rate increases.’
4. Walking prevents dementia
This is good news for the elderly – or for anybody who intends to live a long and happy life. Walking and other movement-based activities have been shown to prevent brain shrinkage and memory loss.
5. Walking will strengthen your joints
‘You need to maintain a certain amount of flexibility around your joints,’ says Michelle. ‘Every joint has a required range of motion, and if you lose that flexibility the joint will age quicker. By walking and moving, you lubricate your joints and delay their degeneration.’ The physiology of it makes sense. Most of your joint cartilage has no direct blood supply, so it gets nutrition from joint fluid that circulates as you move. With each step you take there’s a compression on that joint which ‘squishes’ the cartilage, feeding oxygen and nutrients into the area. If you don’t walk, your joints won’t get that fluid and will soon begin to deteriorate.
6. Walking prevents falls in the elderly
Another advantage for older folks: by regularly walking on natural ground, you’ll improve your balance and reduce your risk of falling. The trick here is to get outside, onto uneven ground. Flat floors or treadmills will help keep your heartrate up but won’t do much for your balance. Start slowly and increase your pace and distance as you get fitter and more sure-footed.